More than showing how things were in the past, Willow Bank Heritage Village in Wakefield allows it’s visitors to be part of the history presented there.

“Willow Bank is a big stage where everyone can be part of the play. The play changes every time. Every open day is different. The main reason why I do that is to make people happy,” says the owner and creator, Christine Grieder.

The buildings, the clothes and the objects reproduce an Edwardian- era style village.

“It started in 2002 when I bought the property. I had an antique shop in a building in front of it and the building got too small.

Then I put an ad in the newspaper and the ‘jail’ from Stoke Police came up for sale and I bought it. Then the church came and it started looking like it is today,” says Christine.

Ms. Baigent is Willow Bank’s school teacher. Her role is played by Carol Firstin, and she is one of the main village’s attractions.

According to Christine, Edward and Marry-Ann Baigent were one of the first couples in Wakefield and Marry-Ann started the very first school in the village, which nowadays is known as Wakefield School. “Carol was living in Christchurch, where she was the teacher at the Ferrymead Heritage Park. She moved to Wakefield and answered our advertisement saying that we needed a teacher,” says Christine.

“I like it because there is a lot of passion behind it. People here collecting all that stuff, basically maintaining it all as it is. There is a lot of effort. It is excellent,” says Nelson visitor, Heinz Schwarze.

Willow Bank Heritage Village is open on Sundays from 10am till 3pm. The class at the schoolhouse is at 11am and hourly onwards. Visitors are asked for donations.

With at least 23 buildings, the visitors have a lot to explore and a visit can take hours. Not only is each building restored beautifully, each is filled with mementos that will bring memories flooding back to older generations while educating younger ones on the way life was lived in earlier times.

More information can be found at the village’s website: www.willowbankwakefield.co.nz

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